Two students test positive for COVID-19, protocols followed

Junior+Rose+Sarner+gets+tested+for+COVID-19+in+the+library+courtyard+on+Wednesday%2C+Oct.+20.+All+community+members+participate+in+a+weekly+testing+program+with+Laboratory+Services+of+America.+Archer+leaders+are+notified+of+any+positive+cases+each+week+allowing+them+to+take+necessary+action+to+slow+the+spread+of+COVID-19.

Photo credit: Greta Irvine

Junior Rose Sarner gets tested for COVID-19 in the library courtyard on Wednesday, Oct. 20. All community members participate in a weekly testing program with Laboratory Services of America. Archer leaders are notified of any positive cases each week allowing them to take necessary action to slow the spread of COVID-19.

By Greta Irvine, News Editor

Two students in the Archer community tested positive for COVID-19 in the past five days. This is the second instance in the 2021-2022 school year of recorded student cases but the first instance requiring contact tracing.

An initial email, sent on Oct. 16, informed Archer families of the first positive test followed by an Oct. 18 email, reporting the second test. Neither communication from Head of School Elizabeth English disclosed the identity of the two individuals.  

Archer leaders are notified of any positive cases when the community-wide test results come in from Laboratory Services of America each week. Once receiving notice of the positive cases this past week, within a 24-hour period, administrative members took a series of steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

As mandated by local authorities, both COVID-19 cases were reported to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health. The department has the authority to conduct their own contact tracing, however, tracing for both cases was carried out by community officials. Healthcare and Safety Practitioner Amanda Butch conducted the contact tracing interviews for the COVID-19 positive individuals, asking each student to recall their past days on campus in regards to where they were and who they came into contact with. Those identified as close contacts received a separate email along with their parents.

The philosophy behind [the communication] is that we want to be completely transparent.”

— Associate Head of School for Finance and Operations Jane Davis

“It’s a pretty smooth process,” Associate Head of School for Finance & Operations Jane Davis said. “It’s a lot of all hands on deck, and it’s a lot of work … But I think we have a good process that we follow.”

Faculty and staff received communication about the positive cases within 24-hours of each respective case. Although Archer leaders are not required by law to communicate to the public at large as their responsibility is to the LADPH and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, they still chose to inform families of the COVID-19 developments on campus.  

“The philosophy behind [the communication] is that we want to be completely transparent. We want all of the families to know that there’s been a case on campus,” Davis said. “What we don’t want is people to become hysterical. We don’t want people to gossip. We want people to be mindful of the fact that we have a COVID case in this community.”

Those identified as close contacts of the positive individuals receive email communication from Butch. The quarantine requirements listed in the email instructed students to quarantine unless they were not experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 and were either fully vaccinated prior to the close contact exposure or had COVID-19 in the past 90 days and competed the required isolation periods prior to the close contact exposure.

Along with the other COVID-19 preventive measures, additional steps taken out of an “abundance of caution,” Davis said, including a thorough cleaning of all locations on campus the positive individuals were in past days as concluded in the contact tracing interviews.

“Our community is 90% vaccinated. So, what we’re talking about is really breakthrough cases, and breakthrough cases are one in 5000,” Davis said. “That being said, we want everyone to know that … we’ve done all of the cleaning that needs to happen in that whatever rooms [those] students [were]. It’s going to be 99 out of 100 times — it’s going to be a breakthrough infection which we all know, there’s less chance of getting sick, and a much less chance of anything happening for even the young getting sick.”

Having campus open during the pandemic—still 100 times over I would say it’s the right thing to do.”

— Associate Head of School for Finance and Operations Jane Davis

In early September, two community members tested positive for COVID-19, one being a staff member and the other a student. As with the past cases, families were notified of the recent COVID-19 diagnoses, and the student body received no communication regarding the situation. However, according to Davis, upper school students will receive communication when any future COVID-19 cases arise in the community. Decisions about communicating to middle school students have not been solidified at this time.

“I think we’re doing what most schools are doing,” Davis said. “But, the who is being communicated to piece of it is unique to each different school and their own preferences depending on whether they’re a [middle] school or an upper school or a mixture of both like we are.” 

It is “incumbent upon all of us to practice COVID-19 mitigation protocols not only while on campus but in our daily lives,” English wrote in both recent emails to families, reminding community members that their compliance with health and safety protocols helps reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Amidst the challenges of navigating the pandemic during the school year, Davis acknowledged the value of in-person education.

“Having campus open during the pandemic – still 100 times over – I would say it’s the right thing to do,” Davis said. “All of this that has to happen in order for the school to stay open is worth walking through the hallways and hearing the voices and the laughing and the joy.”